Shimotakaido (下高井戸) is an official municipality in Suginami Ward. However, in practice the name often refers the cluster of shopping streets and residential neighborhoods that surround Shimotakaido Station, almost all of which (including the station) are not actually in Shimotakaido, but right across the line in Akatsutsumi and Matsubara municipalities of Setagaya Ward. This cluster is the focus of this post. I hadn’t realized before my visit that though there are many shopping streets radiating out from the station, they are all part of the Shimotakaido Shōtengai (下高井戸商店街). Where some neighborhoods have fragmented management of these spaces to the extent that every street and alley is a separate group, Shimotakaido goes to the other extreme, having just about everything unified under one collective.
The main part of Shimotakaido Station is the platform and station building for the Keiō Line, which gives commuters a straight shot into Shinjuku Station. The lower level also includes the northern terminus of the Tōkyū Setagaya Line, which we’ll see after circling around outside to the south side of the station.
Though not a large station, the upper level corridor includes a good number of convenience stores, services, restaurants and even a book store.
This grade level railroad crossing—fumikiri in Japanese—is the focal point of the neighborhood. Located just outside the main entrance on the west side of the station, it is the jumping off point for the two main branches of the Shimotakaido Shōtengai.
On this visit, I started out heading northeast through the Ekimae-dōri (駅前通り) section. Though there are red and green zones marking the traffic lane and shoulder, the actual usage is more pragmatic. Storefront displays chew into the shoulder. People walk down the center, but make way for vehicles when needed. The give and take that happens in this and small streets just like it all around Tokyo helps make the most use out of limited area, but also creates intimate, high quality public space.
Minimal fanfare accompanies the fumikiri on the east side of the station, though it is still a critical connectivity point for the Matsubara districts separated by the rail right-of-way.
Coming around to the south side, this fumikiri allows pedestrians and traffic to cross over the Setagaya Line just outside the station.
The Setagaya Line and the Toden Arakawa Line are the only two remaining tramways in Tokyo. However, while the Arakawa Line has portions that run over streets, the Setagaya Line operates entirely on its own right-of-way. It retains the classification because it is a branch line of what was once the Tamagawa Line, a full-fledged streetcar.
Looping full circle, back to the main fumikiri
Beyond the three main branches, the Shimotakaido Shōtengai also includes many of the businesses on smaller streets, such as the one along the south side of the station.
Turning southwest, we head down Nichidai-dōri (日大通り), the largest of all the branches.
Running off to the southeast is Kōen-dōri (公園通り), the third branch, which we’ll return to later.
This is by far the liveliest part of Shimotakaido.
About a quarter of the way down this branch, the Matsuzawa Elementary School fronts directly into the shōtengai.
The street becomes more quiet as you get further away from the station and deeper into the residential areas, but most of the ground level and even a few upper level units are still occupied by shops and services. Foot traffic is lighter, but there.
After a loop around the outer neighborhoods and the elementary school, we return to the station cluster on the southeast side.
Kōen-dōri is also quieter. Where Nichidai-dōri is predominately convenience stores, retail and food, this street leans toward greengrocers, butchers, florists, and specialty foods and services.
Once more back where we began, I didn’t notice until the end of my walk that the huge sign advertising the Shimotakaido Ekimae Ichiba (下高井戸駅前市場) wasn’t referring to any of the shopping streets but this small, indoor market on the north side of the tracks.
I needed to start toward my next appointment, but the next time I’m here I’ll make a point to head inside the market, as well as take the portal through its building to the Kitaguchi Renga-dōri (北口れんが通り) branch of the shōtengai.
Though Shimotakaido may not score as highly as its cousin Shimokitazawa with regard to hipness, it is a healthy, complete community and a great example of what you can do with transit oriented development. As a commuter neighborhood, the setup of shōtengai that start at the station and lead the way out to the residential blocks is textbook Tokyo urbanism. Even during the weekday early afternoon, there is still a sense of gravity pulling people out into the streets, which makes me think I may have only scratched the surface of the amenities it has to offer. I’ll look forward to coming again.
This post is part of The Tokyo Project, Volume 2. Click here to go to the introduction and table of contents.